UP Psychology Society’s Mental Health Fair: “Headspace” at UP Diliman

Fun fact: the oldest psychology-oriented student organizations at the University of the Philippines is none other than the UP Psychology Society! Founded in 1953, UP PsychSoc has a wide array of goals and activities to fulfill its goal of reaching out to communities in and out of the university regarding psychology related topics. One of their successful projects, the UP PsychSoc’s Mental Health Week happened last October 23-28. Headspace, the mental health fair, was held at the Palma Hall Lobby at UP Diliman.

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Along with the help of the organizers of National Mental Health Week and the UP PUGAD Sayk, this event became a reality. Other organizations such as the Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines, Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc., Buhay Movement, Tala: Mental Wellness and the Door of Hope Counseling Center had booths in the event. Representatives from each organization were extremely open to another. Connections were easily made and the stigma to help people and their mental health grew even stronger.

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The event organizers share their experience in planning this event and their insights on mental health importance:

Nicole Profeta

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What made you join the UP Psych Society? What is your organization all about and what do you aim to do?

I joined UP PsychSoc in my first year of college mostly because my friends were also joining. However, I found myself continuing the application process because I fell in love with their projects, events, and advocacies, and how much like a family they felt to me. I saw that the members of UP PsychSoc were really dedicated towards helping Psychology in the Philippines grow.

How was planning the Mental Health Week? What made it important for you as an organizer to spread mental health awareness to UP students?

It was great! I have always wanted to head this specific event ever since I joined UP PsychSoc, and so being able to head it this year felt very fulfilling!

I’ve noticed how students on campus disregard mental health. This is seen in how students prioritize their academics over physical and mental health, and how many students are still afraid to seek help, should they need it. I guess this can also be attributed to the fact that it is very “Filipino” in nature to remain resilient in the face of adversity, or in students’ cases, in the face of very heavy academic stress. However, we need to realize that “seeking help” is not an indicator of weakness, and neither is acknowledging your personal limitations so you don’t overexert yourself, as well as practicing self-care.

There have already been quite a number of campaigns on mental health focusing on awareness, so this year, our team decided to push for more concrete action regarding mental health. We crafted our events in such a way that students could take a more proactive stance on mental health on campus, as well as their own personal mental wellbeing.

Why are you passionate about mental health?

Honestly, I didn’t know much about mental health before I entered college as a Psychology student. However, I soon came to learn how much of an impact an individual’s mental state affects their overall performance, their relationships, and their overall wellbeing.

I think that mental health is an advocacy very close to my heart because of personal experiences with mental disorders, both from people I know, and my own. I have seen how debilitating mental illnesses can become if they are not addressed, and how important awareness and a proactive attitude about mental health is. There really is no health without mental health.

What kind of positive impact do you think this week long event had on the students and community?

This year’s celebration was a good step forward from what we’ve built on in the past two years. I think we were able to achieve this year’s goal of moving from awareness to action, as seen in how students actively participated in our events. I think the UP Diliman community was able to feel the celebration of National Mental Health Week on a more personal level, which we hoped they would. We waneted to depict mental wellbeing as something everyone should strive for. We wanted to show that mental health is not just the absence of a disorder or illness. I think that National Mental Health Week was able to instill in the community that mental health must always be a top priority.

Tatti Pangalangan

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What made you join the UP Psych Society? What is your organization all about and what do you aim to do?

I joined UP PsychSoc because so many of my blockmates decided to join. I was a BS Psych freshman back in 2015 and I wanted to find my place in UP. While fulfilling my duties as an applicant, I quickly realized that this organization knows how to balance work and fun–we can uphold our advocacy while still having intimate moments like a family. I never regretted my decision to join the org. Going back to its advocacy, UP PsychSoc aims to develop and propagate psychology as a discipline concerned with human welfare. We regularly organize projects that can raise awareness about psychology and mental health issues so that people can have a deeper understanding about these concepts. One way we do this is by celebrating National Mental Health Week!

How was planning the Mental Health Week? What made it important for you as an organizer to spread mental health awareness to UP students?
Planning the National Mental Health Week was somewhat stressful because it is such a big celebration and it concerns a very sensitive topic, which is why we had to make sure we weren’t making any mistakes. However, everyone in the team played their part so well that it took a lot of weight off of my shoulders. Our overall heads, Nicole Profeta and Macky Cortez, and our Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kristian Meñez, were extremely good at guiding us every step of the way. As the Academic Project Officer, I worked very closely with the three of them. The project was important to me because I feel that people are not really aware of mental health. It’s either a taboo or people tend to trivialize it so much that it is not taken seriously. I want people to get the help they need, but they cannot do it if they constantly feel persecuted for trying to get help.

Why are you passionate about mental health?
I’m passionate about mental health because I feel that we cannot be truly healthy without it. Again, like I stated earlier, people tend to trivialize mental health. We have to realize that taking care of our mental health is important. It’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to feel down, it’s okay to ask for help. As much as possible, I want all of us to feel like we’re in a safe space where we can show how we truly feel and not be ashamed about it.

What kind of positive impact do you think this week long event had on the students and community?
Well, I can’t say anything for sure about how it affected people, but I hope that our week long celebration of National Mental Health Week was able to educate others about mental health. I hope people actually got to learn more about it (especially through our panel discussion, Reconnect, which was about how mental health is portrayed in the media) instead of just relying on what they think they know or are regularly exposed to. I also hope that we were able to encourage people to get the help they need so that they can recover from their own battles with mental health.

Maxine Cheng

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What made you join the UP Psych Society? What is your organization all about and what do you aim to do?

As a student majoring in Psychology, I really wanted to join an organisation in which I could be part of something that really works towards furthering the mental health cause, as well as being amongst a diverse group of people who shared the same kind of passion that I have for it. Joining UP PsychSoc has been one of my fondest, if not, my greatest memory since becoming a student in UP. In its goal of being able to promulgate and promote the study of Psychology, it has provided an avenue wherein work within the organisation always seems to turn out feeling very fulfilling as it makes you feel like you contribute to a greater cause. Not only that, but there is also a significant concentration on being able to help de-stigmatide the myths surrounding mental health and being able to campaign its importance in everyday life for everyone.

How was planning the Mental Health Week? What made it important for you as an organizer to spread mental health awareness to UP students?

I can’t say that planning the National Mental Health Week celebration has been completely easy, but it was definitely worth all the sacrifices, perseverance, and effort the team had put into it. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to contribute in furthering a cause that is very close to your heart, and I think that we can all agree that mental health is a significant advocacy that many people, not just from the organisation, hold dear. In order to see concrete progress in its cause, it is important to raise awareness and add further knowledge to help de-stigmatise the skewed views on mental health. Being aware is not only the first step in helping those around who may seem to be dealing with certain problems, but it can also help oneself achieve a clearer, and hopefully better, state of his/her mental health.

Why are you passionate about mental health?

I think that my passion for helping out in the mental health cause stems from my own personal encounters with it. From being afflicted with a mental disorder throughout the years, seeing my friends and loved ones undergoing their own experiences, and generally seeing the state of mental health care here in our country, it roused a certain kind of awareness and empathy within me that fueled my desire to contribute in any way I could to the betterment of mental health and mental health care, especially here in the Philippines. It is often disheartening to see how many people, even in positions of power and prestige, still seem to hold the wrong notions regarding it; and therefore, propagate misinformation which stagnates any progress that can be made. You look around and wonder how many people are too scared to speak up and seek treatment, or how many can even access and afford it, and it just makes you think about how different the situation can be if we started to give more significant to mental health and its effects on both the individual and to the society. Mental health problems hardly choose the people they afflict, and so why should only those who are privileged enough be able to access and afford mental health care when essentially, it is a universal root that is present in everyone?

What kind of positive impact do you think this week long event had on the students and community?

I believe that the annual NMH Week celebration was successful mostly in being able to raise awareness, which is one of the primary goals of the event. We hope that it earnestly reaches the students and every member of the community to regard mental health as a significant part of their life that must be given the same regard as their physical health. Like they say, there is no health without mental health. In addition to that, we hope that the line-up of events really helps in the cause of de-stigmatising the notions surrounding it, especially those prevalent in popular culture and media. In light of these, essentially, we also just hope that it inspired every one to take better care and be a lot kinder to themselves as well.

Participants from different organizations also share their experience in the mental health fair.

Describe your Mental Health Week experience in 5 words!

Katha Estopace
Tiring. Fulfilling. Warm. Supportive. [Filled with] Hope.

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Sarah Patolot
The NMHW2017 is actually my first Mental Health Week Celebration and it’s a pleasure for me as a mental health advocate to be part of that event. I’m grateful that I’ve met people who shares the same goal with me. I become more knowledgeable to different organizations that supports mental health and Im looking forward to be part of it again next year.

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It was truly an amazing event to be part of! Talang Dalisay is truly grateful to have been invited. We look forward to more events with UP PsychSoc in the future.

Watch out for more events by UP PsychSoc by liking their Facebook Page.

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